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SEO RFPs: Everything You Need to Know (Plus a Free SEO RFP Template)

Last Updated December 1, 2023

With a request for proposal (RFP) for search engine optimization (SEO), your business can streamline its efforts to find a reputable SEO company that meets your goals and budget. Learn the basics of SEO RFPs, and get our free SEO RFP template now!

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What is an SEO RFP?

An SEO RFP is a document that businesses use to procure SEO proposals. Typically, SEO RFPs outline the company’s budget, project needs, and requirements for RFP submissions, which can help companies receive timely and accurate proposals from qualified SEO agencies.

Why use an RFP for SEO?

When you use an RFP for SEO, you make your search for an SEO company easier with these perks:

Eliminate poor fits

If you’ve spent time researching SEO agencies, you’ve probably learned that most SEO service providers don’t publish their prices online. Instead, you have to contact them, which often wastes your time once you learn the agency is over budget.

With an SEO RFP, you skip this step.

Your SEO request for proposal does the work for you by outlining your budget (and project) requirements. Agencies outside your budget (or project specifications) skip submitting an RFP, which results in a vetted list of SEO service providers.

Determine company objectives

Too many times, businesses connect with SEO companies before they know:

  • What they want to achieve with SEO
  • How they measure an SEO agency’s performance
  • What they need an SEO company to do

Providing SEO agencies with a partial picture of your SEO goals can lead to a failed partnership. For example, your SEO provider is left directionless if your team hasn’t agreed on your key performance metrics (KPIs).

However, with an SEO RFP, you decide on these critical points before meeting with SEO agencies.

The result? You receive RFPs from SEO companies that can meet your company’s needs, from your timeline and budget to your reporting and KPIs. Again, this byproduct of an SEO RFP saves you time by focusing your attention on qualified agencies only.

Align company stakeholders

No matter your business size, from a startup to a larger company looking for enterprise SEO services, everyone has opinions. With an SEO RFP, you can align your company’s stakeholders, from your organization’s owner to your department head, on what they want from SEO — and outsourcing SEO.

Getting aligned can take time, so don’t expect results overnight. You’ll likely need to discuss the matter with stakeholders multiple times as you push toward a unified vision of what search engine optimization should do for your business.

Receive customized offers

Another benefit of using an RFP for SEO is the customization.

When you contact an SEO service provider without an RFP, they’ll build the proposal based on their communications with you. In our experience (we’ve been providing SEO services for more than 25 years), most businesses don’t share everything they need SEO, just what is top of mind.

Investing the time to build an RFP can help your company outline everything it needs from an SEO agency. For an SEO company, this information can fuel the creation of a tailored proposal that considers your requirements, plus incorporates considerations based on those needs.

Improve pricing accuracy

Pricing is one of the most common pain points for businesses shopping for SEO services. Most agencies don’t publish their SEO rates online (SEO.com is one of the few), which requires you to contact companies that inadvertently waste your time when they share pricing outside your budget.

With an SEO RFP, you provide potential SEO service providers with your budget.

Again, outlining your needs allows you to receive RFPs from the most qualified agencies. These agencies know they can meet your needs within your budget, so when it comes to reviewing RFPs, you have a list of qualified companies to consider.

Compare providers faster

When you create an RFP, you create an outline for agency submissions. This structured outline allows you to compare potential service providers side-by-side. For example, you can compare their pricing, deliverables, timeline, and more.

For your team, this setup makes the process of vetting agencies faster and easier. Plus, you can condense the submissions for different stakeholders so they can view the information that’s most important to them.

Set preferred communication channels

Your time is valuable, and SEO RFPs let you optimize your time by sharing your preferred points of contact (POCs) and communication channels. For example, you can require communication through email vs. phone to limit interruptions.

Your preferred POCs can also help SEO agencies understand the number of stakeholders in the deal and their considerations. The best SEO companies will use this information to paint a picture for stakeholders at the C-level and department level, making getting buy-in easier.

Mitigate risk

Hiring any service provider, from a plumbing company to an SEO company, comes with risks. With an RFP for SEO, you can mitigate risk by vetting agencies before even speaking with them. That’s because an RFP outlines your requirements in depth to remove companies that aren’t a good fit.

Plus, RFPs can require SEO companies to submit valuable information for vetting them, like:

  • Case studies
  • Client references
  • SEO reports
  • And more

With this information, you can make an educated decision about who you hire to do your SEO.

What should an SEO RFP include?

If you’re looking to get started with an SEO RFP, include the following to maximize its performance:

Purpose statement

Your purpose statement provides a brief, concise summary of your request for proposal, and includes:

  • Company name
  • Project overview
  • Project goals
  • Project budget
  • [If applicable] Existing relationships with SEO service providers
  • Submission period for RFPs

A purpose statement is something that helps SEO service providers vet your RFP. From a glance, they can see if they’re a viable candidate for your SEO needs. For example, if your project budget is $2500 per month, and their rates start at $5000, they know they’re not a viable option for your business.

While labeled a “statement,” a purpose statement is typically three paragraphs (or less).

Company information

Your company information offers an inside look at your business by sharing the following:

  • Name
  • Website
  • Industry
  • Industry leaders
  • Competitors
  • Target audience
  • Products or services
  • Unique value proposition

While optional, the following information can provide additional perspective on your business:

  • Mission statement
  • Company values
  • Company history

Help make your RFP easier to review by using headings, short paragraphs, and lists to organize your data.

Project summary

Like your purpose statement, your project summary provides an overview that shares the following:

  • Goals
  • KPIs
  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • [If applicable] Incentives for additional compensation
  • Legal requirements, like signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

You can also help SEO services providers by explaining why you want to outsource your SEO. For example, are you looking to combat a recent Google algorithm update? Or, are you looking to improve your SEO performance in response to having a smaller in-house team?

The more information you can provide, the more you can help an SEO agency understand your needs.

Project goals

Project goals is a place to expand on your aspirations by sharing:

  • What you want to achieve
  • Why you want to achieve this goal
  • When you want to achieve this goal
  • How you want to achieve this goal

SEO agencies can often leverage their expertise here by reverse-engineering the what, why, when, and how of your goals. For example, based on your “why,” they can sometimes recommend a more effective approach than your original “how.” They can even push back on your “what” based on your “when.”

Feedback from potential SEO service providers is invaluable here. While you may not like the news, they’re demonstrating their knowledge and willingness to offer feedback that sets you up for long-term success.

Project expectations

Project expectations highlights information specific to your business and project, like:

  • Communication channels
  • Communication frequency
  • Website access
  • Website analytics access
  • Reporting frequency

Through your project expectations, SEO companies can gauge if they’re a good fit for your business. For example, if you require weekly updates by phone, and the agency has a high client-to-account manager ratio, they may decide to skip your SEO RFP.

Project points of contact

Your project points of contact shares the following information:

  • Name
  • Role
  • Preferred communication channel
  • [If applicable] Contact information

For your SEO request for proposal, we recommend only including the contact information for POCs involved in the interview process. By protecting the contact information of other team members, you prevent agencies from reaching out to them.

Terms of contract

Terms of contract provide valuable legal information, such as the following:

  • Desired or earliest start date
  • Contract duration
  • Termination rights
  • NDA requirements
  • Reserved rights, like for changing the contract agreement
  • And more

You’ll often work with your legal team on completing this part of your SEO RFP. If you’ve outsourced services or purchased companywide products, they’ll likely have existing recommendations or documentation you can use.

Existing strategy

Your existing strategy answers the following questions:

  • How many hours does your business spend on SEO each month?
  • What kind of SEO tasks does your business do?
  • What types of SEO tasks has your business experimented with in the past?
  • What is your business trying to accomplish with these SEO tasks?
  • Which metrics does your business use to evaluate its SEO performance?
  • How do you report on SEO performance?
  • Does your business work with an SEO agency now?

When documenting your existing strategy, pretend you’re doing it for a new internal hire. You want to give them an overview of what you’ve been doing and why you’re doing it so they can understand where you are and how you got here.

Existing resources

Existing resources help SEO agencies understand your tech stack, like what platforms and tools you use to do search engine optimization. For example, you might include Google Analytics and Google Search Console. If you’re willing to give access to these platforms (before signing), note this in your SEO RFP.

Existing processes

In your RFP, existing processes should help SEO companies understand:

  • Who works on your SEO
  • How SEO priorities get determined
  • How SEO tasks get implemented
  • How often reporting happens
  • And more

SEO agencies can understand how their team will blend with yours by understanding your existing processes. They can also better understand the day-to-day roles of the project’s point of contacts in your search engine optimization efforts.

Decision timeline

Your decision timeline provides an overview of the following:

  • RFP release date
  • RFP submission deadline
  • Consideration dates
  • Decision deadline and/or announcement date

With this information, SEO service providers can create their plans for submitting an RFP.

Decision points

Your decision points outline your considerations when reviewing RFPs. Examples include:

  • Pricing
  • Proposed strategy
  • Agency experience
  • Agency case studies
  • Agency industry experience
  • And more

When it comes to decision points, you get to choose what matters most to your business.

In our experience, focusing on an agency’s past performance, recommendations, and SEO approach can help you find the best SEO company for your business. While price is important, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

Submission questionnaire

Your submission questionnaire is when you can request additional information from applicants, like:

  • Agency history
  • Proposed SEO strategy
  • SEO pricing
  • Case studies
  • Report examples
  • Client references

You can also include questions like:

  • What are your contract terms and conditions?
  • How often do your prices change? And by how much typically?
  • Have you worked on SEO in my industry, and for how many hours?
  • Do you work with any of our company’s competitors?
  • How much ongoing time will you need from our business?
  • How do you stay updated on SEO trends and algorithm changes?

Keep in mind the above items are just some ideas. Your business can expand on these areas to meet your needs. That’s why meeting with your stakeholders is important while drafting your organization’s SEO RFP.

Submission requirements

Your submission requirements outline submission standards like:

  • File format
  • File organization
  • Filename

Providing guidance here can ensure you receive a well-formatted document that your team can access across their devices. This proactive approach can also ensure you receive submissions that you can compare side-by-side.

How to prepare an RFP for SEO

You know what an SEO RFP should include. Now, learn how to prepare your RFP for SEO services:

  1. Meet with your stakeholders: The most successful RFPs are a group effort. That’s why meeting with your stakeholders is critical to understanding their needs and wants, which you can blend into a comprehensive RFP.
  2. Define your objectives and goals: As a team, you must decide what you want to accomplish with outsourcing SEO and how you’ll measure your outsourced SEO performance. Focus on generating specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely goals — or S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  3. Determine your decision points: Work with your stakeholders to decide which decision points matter most to your business, from pricing to experience. These decision points will influence what SEO agencies highlight in their RFPs.
  4. Outline your existing SEO efforts: For this step in preparing your SEO RFP, we recommend completing this over several days or weeks. You’ll often find you think of more workflows over time, so plan to give this step additional time.
  5. Proofread your RFP draft: Have someone outside your organization, like someone in your professional network, read your RFP draft. As an outsider, they can help you break through the curse of knowledge by highlighting confusing areas for someone outside the organization.

Even if you’re using an SEO RFP template, you’ll need to complete the above steps.

Why use an RFP template for SEO?

While you can create an SEO RFP in-house, there are a few benefits to using an RFP template for SEO:

  • Save time by using a pre-built, vetted template
  • Eliminate headaches with a proven framework for requesting SEO templates
  • Ensure all critical points, from pricing to legal, get addressed

That’s why we created an SEO RFP template and made it available for download — for free!

How to evaluate a submitted RFP for SEO

In preparation for receiving your RFPs for SEO, here are some tips for how to evaluate them:

  • Check their attention to detail: Compare your request, like your requested filename and file type, against what was submitted. Did the agency follow these instructions or overlook your requirements? Take their attention to detail into consideration here.
  • Investigate their case studies: Agencies often submit their most compelling case studies. Read these studies in-depth and consider how the SEO company approached the channel, the client’s needs, and other factors. What stands out, and what doesn’t?
  • Speak with their references: Client references are your chance to hear what clients like and dislike about an SEO company. While references often rave about the agency, ask about important soft skills like communication, transparency, and other customer support elements.
  • Compare their pricing to their agency: While pricing isn’t the only purchase factor in hiring an SEO agency, it’s one of the most common ones. Evaluate the SEO company’s pricing against its deliverables, experience, team, and tech to build an accurate comparison.

Once you’ve compiled your RFP leaders, meet with them virtually or in-person to discuss your business and its SEO needs. While you could sign based on the RFP alone, we recommend speaking with the agency to better understand their culture, approach, and business fit.

Start receiving proposals with our free SEO RFP template

With a search engine optimization RFP, you can find a reputable, qualified SEO agency faster. As an SEO service provider with more than 25 years of experience, we understand what goes into creating an effective RFP for SEO. That’s why we created a free, downloadable SEO RFP template.

Download our free SEO RFP template today to start finding your SEO partner!

Download an SEO RFP template!

Get everything you need to start receiving SEO proposals with our free template!

    • Popular
    • RFP
    SEO RFP Template

    Download this easy-to-use template to start your search for an SEO agency.

Marketing Guides Form

Download Your Free Guide

Enter your name and email to download your free guide. We will also send the download link to your inbox.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter